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Education stakeholders celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Council of the EU Education Committee


Education and training representatives met in Brussels on Thursday 13 June 2024 to acknowledge the 50th anniversary of the Education Committee and its key achievements. The conference was organized jointly by the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU and the General Secretariat of the Council and counted with the participation of leading figures that actively contributed to 50 years of cooperation amongst EU member states in the area of education and training.

The conference was moderated by Wouter Kerkhove, Education and Training Attaché at the Permanent Representation of Belgium to the EU (Delegation of Flanders) who welcomed the participants and introduced the speakers who delivered the opening remarks: Pierre Cartuyvels, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Belgium to the EU who highlighted the benefits of Erasmus+ and the European Education Area to promote inclusiveness in Europe; Peter Javorčik, Director General for Education at the General Secretariat of the Council, who mentioned the first action programme that was adopted to overcome needs such as lack of statistics in education or obstacles to mobility; Iliana Ivanova, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth who closed the first session with a short message on the current achievements in Europe’s education policies.

Florian Pecenka, Education Attaché at the Permanent Representation of Austria to the EU, and Graham Nequest, Former Political Administrator at the General Secretariat of the Council, followed with a dynamic exchange on their experiences of working at the Education Committee. They both agreed about the importance to reach compromises, to apply the subsidiarity principle and to put forward evidence-informed policy.

Looking back at 50 years of European cooperation in the field of education and training was the main topic of discussion for Herman de Croo (Minister of State and former Minister of Education in Belgium around 1974), Doris Pack (Former Chair of the EP CULT Committee) and Viviane Reding (Former European Commissioner) who represented the three EU institutions at the conference. They highlighted how education started to be part of the Council meetings, to then be included in the Treaties in Maastricht in 1998 and Lisbon in 2020 and how they managed to promote Lifelong Learning first and then Erasmus and Erasmus+ programmes, to put education and training high in the political agendas and to strive for inclusive education and training systems. They also admit having failed in certain objectives such as a commonly taught and learnt European History in school programmes, promote early schooling to avoid illiteracy, best support teachers and trainers or having more female learners in certain digital and STEAM studies.  Certain topics are still under discussion like recognition of diplomas, mobility, or equal access to programmes for disadvantaged group of learners.

The conference ended with a panel discussion with representatives from present education and training stakeholders, such as the universities (Amanda Crowfoot, Secretary General at the European University Association), teachers and trainers (Michiel Heijnen – President of the Association for Teacher Education in Europe),  lifelong learning representatives (Brikena Xhomaqi – Director Lifelong Learning Platform) and students (Horia Onita, President of the European Students’ Union) who acknowledged the past achievements from the Education Committee and rest of EU institutions, but also stressed the need to promote lifelong learning as a transversal and overarching concept, remove barriers to education, change cultural mindsets so that lifelong learning becomes the norm, facilitate access to mobility to disadvantaged groups of learners and put forward mechanisms to comply with the European Pillar of Social Rights principles.

The conference’s concluding remarks were provided by Dominique Denis, Chair of the Education Committee (French Community in Belgium) and Inga Rosinska, Director of Information and Outreach, Council of the EU.